Brainstorming is ineffective? Try 6-3-5 method.

Brainstorming is ineffective? Perhaps the 6-3-5 method will be better


Brainstorming, although it is widely used to solve problems and collect ideas from a group, often has a lot of limitations. It turns out that the methods easy to conduct for the Moderator are not always so easy for the participants.


In the classic brainstorming, each participant independently creates their ideas, usually in writing, without consulting the other members of the group. As a result, it can sometimes lead to the moment when we are already beginning to persistently circulate around an idea and block our creative process. It would be useful to take a moment away from the problem and concentrate on something else, but how to do it when the brainstorming rules do not take it into account?


Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more time on the Moderator to prepare a creative meeting of ideas to achieve better results. In this case, the so-called method 6-3-5.


6-3-5 Method – Introduction


When starting any process of collecting ideas, it is important at the beginning that the suggestions are as diverse as possible. In the next stage, however, there should be closer views and detailed consideration of a smaller number of options. Very many techniques use this type of gathering of ideas. One of them is the 6-3-5 method.


Method 6-3-5, sometimes also referred to as the 6-3-5 technique, is a brainstorming variant, but with a slightly more formalized structure.


The numbers in the name of the method mean:

6 – people in the group

3 – ideas from each participant

5 – “rounds” of collecting ideas (it’s about 5 times passing the sheet with ideas to other people)


In short, the 6-3-5 method consists in gathering a group of six people and each one writes down three ideas on the sheet prepared by the moderator.


Then he passes it on to the participant who sits on the right side, who develops it or gives his own. This cycle is repeated five times – until the card with the ideas of the first person in the group returns to it. The team can then gather to evaluate the generated ideas together.


As a result, session 6-3-5 can bring up to 90 ideas at a time! (assuming that none of them is repeated).


How to carry out the 6-3-5 method step by step? Tips for the Moderator


– Collect a team of six people. If there are more participants, divide the team into smaller groups.

– Prepare idea collection sheets on the largest possible size of the sheet of paper (the larger the sheet of paper, the more space to present the idea).

– Each sheet for participants should be divided into three columns for ideas and six lines – one for each participant’s ideas, see example below.



1.      ….. [Participant]

Problem: ………………………………………………………………

  Idea 1 Idea 2 Idea 3


– Each person in the group should present their three proposals for solving the problem in the first row of the sheet.

– It is worth introducing the principle of the duration of each generation cycle of ideas. This will give rhythm to the workshops and will be an additional motivator for the participants. However, let’s not rush the group, this is not the way.

– After the time set for a given cycle has expired, each person in the group transfers his sheet with ideas to the next participant. It is important that the Moderator checks whether everyone has managed to present their three ideas before handing over the sheet. If not – the group waits for everyone to finish and be ready.

– After receiving the sheet with the ideas of the “neighbor”, first read them, then add your own in the next row or expand the ones proposed by the predecessor.

– The completed sheet should be forwarded to the next person sitting next to it. This cycle is repeated until our own sheet returns to us.

– Do not limit yourself to the verbal description of the idea. If it is easier to explain to you a given issue using, for example, graphics – no problem, draw! The form of presenting the idea is optional here.

– Important rule for participants – each time you should give a new idea, you can not duplicate once invented solutions on all received sheets. Otherwise, there may be a situation where we have many duplicating, routine ideas.

And this is how we got to the halfway point of the 6-3-5 method. All that remains is to collect all the ideas and evaluate them.

Selection, segregation and evaluation of ideas generated using the 6-3-5 method

Step # 1: Selection

After completing the part devoted to collecting ideas, you should review all of them in terms of repeatability. Ideas that duplicate mark in the same way, e.g. with a color, symbol or number of repetitions. Thanks to this, during the assessment you will avoid the comment: “But it was already …”.

If among the ideas collected are those that were developed by other members of the group, it should also be appropriately marked.

Step # 2: Segregation

It can be carried out in many ways. For example, the collected ideas can be divided into categories: technical, systemic, investment, etc.

Or differently: difficult to implement, interesting but requiring investments, quick to introduce, rejected, very interesting.

Step # 3: Evaluation

The last stage is the assessment: yes – we implement or can not implement this idea.

The assessment can be approached in such a way that each proposal is discussed against the background of the team and discusses the pros and cons.

You can also vote – and discuss only those ideas that will collect the most “likes”.

What kind of assessment will be chosen by Moderator is arbitrary, and often also depends on the group with which we work.

All accepted proposals must be assigned for implementation to specific people and set a deadline for implementation. This is a mandatory step in any problem analysis.

Method 6-3-5 – how to effectively carry it out? – summary

1. Let people work alone

Individual work at the beginning will generate a lot of different ideas. The advantage is also that people with stronger personalities will not dominate the group and will not focus on their own ideas.

2. “Take your time slowly”

Set a time frame for the workshops, but try not to drive the group too intensely. The creative process takes time. If the analyzed problem is very complicated, consider whether it is better to present the topic to the participants beforehand so that they have time to think about it.

3. Give the possibility of drawing

Not always a description is enough to understand the intent of the originator.

Many classic brainstorming sessions involve group members in discussions. As a result, they often focus on solutions that are easy to talk about. It can also bring an effect in the form of selecting ideas that are abstract and may never work in practice.

For this reason, the combination of drawing and writing is ideal from the point of view of generating creative ideas. At this point, however, a tip – if the workshop participants decide to express their idea in a graphic way – let them complete it with a verbal commentary. Often, drawings are made hurriedly, which may make their subsequent interpretation difficult.

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Other methods of solving problems can be found in the TOOLS AND METHODS.

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